Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Chocolate Chip Scones with Espresso Glaze


Scones are some of my favorite breakfast treats to make. Whenever I have extra buttermilk or heavy cream lying around in my fridge, I can't help myself. Scones just happen. Maybe it's because they require basic ingredients that I always seem to have on hand, or maybe it's their ease to make. Perhaps it's the fact that I can change up a few small ingredients and create a completely new variation, or maybe it's simply the fact that they taste so good.

Regardless of the reason that I bake my weight in scones on an annual basis, I'm always excited to try out new variations and share them with my readers. I use the same basic scone recipe (tried and true) and spice things up to make all different kinds, whether they are Almond Joy Scones or Tipsy Cherry Scones, Fresh Blueberry or Cranberry-Apple-Cinnamon, these scones are simply the best, boasting an incredibly tender crumb with a wonderful crust. Some are glazed while others are topped with coarse sugar, but the end result is always sublime.

I most recently decided to use chocolate chips as the base for my weekend scone creation. A bit of pure vanilla extract added more flavor to the dough, while an espresso glaze walks the line between chocolate chip scones and mocha ones. Next time I may try adding espresso powder directly to the scone dough to aim for a more mocha flavor, but this subtle addition is a wonderful foil to the perfection of the chocolate chips.

In short, I'll leave you will a quote from my mom after taking her first bite of one of these scones: "It's not good, it's oh my God!" Well, there you have it. These scones aren't good, they're "oh my God!"

This is my final post for 2015. I hope all my readers have a wonderful and safe New Year's celebration. See you all in 2016!

Chocolate Chip Scones with Espresso Glaze
Makes 12 to 16 (depending on size)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), cold and cut into cubes
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 to 1/2 cup buttermilk, heavy cream, or milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cold butter cubes to the flour mixture and work the butter into the flour mixture, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles coarse pea or dime-size crumbs. Be careful not to overwork the mixture or the butter will soften too much and the resulting scones will not be flaky. Add the chocolate chips and toss well. Mix together 1/3 cup of the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and beaten egg and then add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined, kneading lightly (but don't overwork it). Add more buttermilk if the dough is too dry.

Divide the dough in half and pat each portion into a 3/4-to-1-inch thick circle. Don't overwork the dough, as you want the butter inside to stay as cold as possible until the scones head into the oven.

Use a bench/dough scraper or knife to cut 6 or 8 wedges (like a pizza) from each round. Flip each cut scone over and place upside down on the parchment lined baking sheet (the bottoms are flatter and will look prettier as the tops of the scones), spacing a couple inches apart. At this point, the scones can be refrigerated or even frozen and baked later. Frozen scones can be baked from a frozen state; just add a little extra baking time, as needed.

Lightly brush on top of the scones (but not the sides) with a little buttermilk. Bake scones for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow the scones to cool on the pan while you prepare the glaze.

Stir together the confectioners' sugar, espresso powder, and milk until smooth. If the glaze is too thin, add a sprinkle more confectioners' sugar. Too thick, add a drizzle of milk. When scones are cool, drizzle the glaze over the tops. Allow the glaze to set briefly and then serve the scones at room temperature.

Monday, December 21, 2015



Gata is easily one of my favorite Armenian desserts. It's a pastry with similarities to both croissants and rugelach, but with a personality of its own. It's crisp on the outside, flaky within, with spirals of vanilla-laced sweetness throughout.

My aunt has perfected her gata-making technique over years of tweaking, and she recently passed on those secrets to me. Not only are the ingredients important to yield the perfect gata, but the tricks she uses to not only make the process easier, but to create an all-around excellent gata pastry are being shared with my readers through this incredibly detailed recipe. You're welcome!

Gata is a two-part process and must begin the day or evening before baking the pastries. The dough is very easy to make, especially with the use of a food processor. In order to give the dough plenty of room to move around the bowl of the food processor, we make half the dough at a time and then combine the two halves.

Flour, butter, baking soda, baking powder, and sour cream make up the dough, which is then folded multiple times in a technique not unlike laminating dough for croissants, but without the block of butter--here the butter is already worked into the dough. These "laminated" dough squares rest in the fridge until we are ready for step two the following day.

The filling, referred to as "khoreez" in Armenian, begins similarly to the dough, by blitzing flour and butter together in the food processor, but then is finished with a quick addition of sugar and vanilla to yield a sweet, sandy filling.

The dough is rolled out into a thin rectangle (the thinner it is, the more layers you'll yield when you roll it up!) and then covered in the "khoreez" filling, leaving a small uncovered edge for sealing.

You then use the palms of your hands to press the filling into the dough to make the rolling process less messy. The dough is then tightly rolled into a spiral.

Finally a rolling pin gently flattens the roll, and we're ready to finish the gata!

It's easier and less messy to brush the entire roll with egg wash before cutting it.

A serrated vegetable cutter is traditional when portioning gata, and results in beautiful serrated edges, but if you're unable to acquire such a tool, a dough scraper will work in a pinch, but won't yield the same refined look.

The gata then bake until golden, showing off their lovely flaky layers and sweet filling. The delicate vanilla flavor shines through these crisp and delectable sweets. Although the process to make gata seems lengthy, it's really not. You will need to plan ahead, but other than that, as long as you use these convenient tricks, you'll find that the resulting gata is absolute perfection. Enjoy!

Makes 45 to 50

16 ounces full-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 sticks (9 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1 tablespoon-sized pieces

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1 tablespoon-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To Finish:
1 egg, chalaza removed (thick white part by the yolk--use the egg shell to remove it), beaten

The dough needs to be made the day or night before you assemble and bake your gata. Start by adding the baking soda and baking powder to the sour cream and mix it until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Add half the flour and half the butter to the bowl of a food processor (if you have a really large food processor bowl you can do it all at once, but it's best to split it up if not). Pulse the mixture several times until it looks sandy and contains small pea-sized bits of butter.

Add half the sour cream mixture and mix until it comes together into a doughy mass. Remove the dough to a lightly floured cutting board or work surface and repeat with the remaining flour, butter, and sour cream mixture in the food processor. Add the other half of the dough to the dough already on the work surface and gently press it together to form a single dough (do not knead it, but just absorb one dough half into the other).

Cut the dough into four equal parts. One at a time, on a lightly floured surface, use your hands to press each dough piece flat, about 1/2-inch thick, then fold it into thirds like a letter, turn 90 degrees and fold again into thirds to yield a perfect square. Use your hands to straighten the edges and make sure the corners are relatively sharp. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in an air-tight container. Repeat with the three other pieces of dough and add them to the air-tight container. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, make the filling. Add the flour and butter to the bowl of a food processor and pulse the mixture several times until it looks sandy and contains small pea-sized bits of butter. Add the sugar and vanilla and quickly pulse just a few more times to combine, but not enough to form a dough. Pour this crumbly filling into a wide, flat bowl and use a large spoon to divide it into four quadrants (just draw lines). Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack in the center. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove two of the refrigerated dough squares from the refrigerator at a time. Lightly flour a work surface and gently roll out one of the dough squares into a rectangle about 1/16th-inch thick and about with dimensions of about 12-by-15-inches (this doesn't have to be perfect, and may be slightly different in size if your four pieces of dough weren't divided evenly). Do your best to create straight edges and corners for your rectangle, and an even thickness, dusting with minimal flour as necessary. Arrange the rectangle so the longest edge is facing you with the shorter edges on either side.

Add 1/4 of the filling to the rectangle and use your hands to spread it over the surface, leaving about a 1-inch border at the furthest edge clear of filling, but otherwise spreading the filling from edge to edge. Use the palms of your hands to firmly press the filling into the dough. This will make it easier to roll without the filling falling out too much.

Beginning with the edge closest to you, start rolling the dough tightly. Sometimes it's easier to simply make a small fold across the length, using your dough scraper for assistance, and then continue with the rolling. When finished rolling, gently press the top of the roll to help seal.

Carefully move your roll to a clean piece of parchment or wax paper on your work surface. Lay it diagonally if you must so it doesn't hang off the edges. Use your rolling pin to gently flatten the roll starting at the center and moving outward, and then again starting at the center and moving outward in the opposite direction. You are not rolling it out, but just using the natural momentum of the rolling pin to flatten it so it's not rounded like a jelly roll.

Brush the top and sides of the roll with the beaten egg. Use a serrated vegetable cutter (if you have one--and if not, a dough scraper will work but won't yield the pretty serrated edges) to cut the dough into 1 1/4-inch slices. Very gently use a small spatula or your dough scraper to remove each piece to the prepared pans. The end pieces aren't pretty, but will still be delicious for the chef, so make sure you add those to your pan as well.

When finished with the first roll, dump out any extra crumbs from your parchment paper (as long as they're not eggy) back into the bowl of filling, and use your dough scraper to clean any extra crumbs from you original work surface and add those back to the bowl as well.

Repeat the process with the remaining dough squares on your clean, lightly floured work surface (you can fold the parchment in half lengthwise and reuse it again once more, and then start fresh on dough #3 with a clean piece).

Bake the gata one tray at a time for about 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back about halfway through baking, until the tops are dark golden brown, and the dough on the sides is no longer pasty looking, and appears to be cooked through (it may even start to look slightly golden). Remove from the oven and replace with the next pan of gata. Repeat the baking process until all pans are baked, one at a time.

Cool the gata completely before removing from the baking sheets. To store, place them either on a large baking sheet, pan, or serving dish, but cover with a large tea towel as opposed to foil or plastic wrap, which will cause the gata to soften.

You may freeze the gata in a tupperware lined with parchment or wax paper on the bottom, on top, and in between the layers. Refresh the thawed gata, if needed, in a 350 degree F oven for about 5 minutes or until they are heated through. This will help re-crisp them if they have softened (you can also use this trick if your gata softens after a few days of standard storage). The final result should be crisp on the outside, and flaky throughout.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Cabbage Gnocchi with Sausage and Toasted Bread Crumbs


Last spring I reviewed Marc Vetri's newest cookbook Mastering Pasta, creating his rendition of Eggplant and Parmesan Rotolo, a unique spin on eggplant Parmesan. It was excellent, and enticed me to continue cooking from the book. I followed up with a simple Fettuccine with Corn Crema and Charred Green Onions. This easy-to-make pasta dish really encompasses the flavors of late summer. Now as winter is approaching, I'm read to embrace all my favorite comfort foods, chock full of winter ingredients.

Cabbage and sausage always makes me think of winter (and Germans, of course). When reading the book, this Cabbage Gnocchi with Sausage and Toasted Bread Crumbs really stood out, but last spring it just wasn't the right time of year to make this creative take on gnocchi.

For the record, making gnocchi with bread as the base is not uncommon, and is quite popular in the cooler northern regions of Italy (near the Alps). With that said, it's not really surprising to see that style of gnocchi made using other ingredients that are prevalent in Alpine regions of Europe.

A combination of blanched cabbage and sauteed sausage make up the bulk of this gnocchi, while the milk-soaked bread really holds it all together, along with beaten egg. I used Italian-style chicken sausage instead of pork, but you could definitely use either. Considering the fact that the sausage is cooked and then finely chopped to mix into the gnocchi "dough," you don't really end up tasting much sausage in the final result. The cabbage does hold its own mainly due to its texture (some of mine still had a bit of bite to it).

These gnocchi are delicate, yet chewy--not the tender morsels you get with potato or ricotta-based nuggets. They are served relatively naked, although you can easily drizzle brown butter over the top before finishing with the toasted bread crumbs (that's what I did). The toasted bread crumbs are paramount here because they produce the most texture.

*Update 1/15/16* I actually recently made these again and topped them with a bit of simple garlicky tomato sauce before topping with the bread crumbs, and I preferred them even more this way!

If you're looking for a really creative variation on gnocchi, these cabbage gnocchi are relatively simple to make and utilize some of my favorite comfort-inspiring ingredients. They also freeze really well!

Cabbage Gnocchi with Sausage and Toasted Bread Crumbs
Makes 6 to 8 servings
(From Mastering Pasta)

1/4 head green cabbage (about 7 oz/200 g)
12 slices white sandwich bread
2 cups (473 ml) whole milk
1 link fresh Italian sausage (about 4 oz/114 g)
1 small clove garlic, smashed
3/4 cup (113 grams) tipo 00 flour, or 3/4 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (113 g) all-purpose flour, plus some for dusting
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (72 g) plain dried bread crumbs
3/4 cup (75 g) grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cabbage and boil until the leaves are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the cabbage to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, trim out the tough, woody core and stems and discard. Finely chop the tender leaves. You should have about 1 1/2 cups chopped (150 g).

Soak the bread in the milk in a bowl for 5 minutes. Squeeze out the bread like a sponge to remove as much milk as possible, wringing it in cheesecloth if necessary to remove and discard all the milk. Set the bread aside.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the sausage and garlic clove until the sausage is cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and finely chop it. Discard the garlic.

Combine the bread, cabbage, sausage, and flour in a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until fully mixed. If the bread doesn’t fall apart, mash it with the spoon until it does. Taste the dough, adding salt and pepper until it tastes good to you. Stir in the eggs. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring now and then, until they are toasted and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Spoon 1-inch (2.5 cm) dollops of dough into a bowl of flour. Gently scoop up a dollop with floured hands (the dough will be loose), roll the dollop into a ball, and then place it on a floured rimmed baking sheet. You should have 50 to 60 gnocchi (I yielded closer to 75).

Use the gnocchi immediately or cover them loosely and refrigerate them for a few hours. You can also freeze them in a single layer, transfer them to a zipper-lock bag, and freeze them for up to 2 weeks. Take the gnocchi straight from the freezer to the boiling water, adding 30 seconds or so to the cooking time.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches to prevent crowding, drop in the gnocchi and cover the pot to quickly return the water to a low boil. Gently cook the gnocchi until springy to the touch and tender throughout, 3 to 5 minutes. Squeeze a dumpling between your fingers. It should have some bounce-back. If it just flattens, the gnocchi are not done yet.

Using a spider strainer or slotted spoon, drain the gnocchi, letting them drip-dry for a moment, then dish them out onto warmed plates. Top each serving with a spoonful of the bread crumbs and some Parmesan.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya


When I reviewed Besh Big Easy recently, there was a long list of recipes I was dying to try. The book contains lots of fantastic authentic New Orleans dishes, and I only grazed the surface with the delectable New Orleans Shrimp Étouffée. When I received andouille sausage from D'Artagnan, I knew this was the time for jambalaya.

Andouille sausage from D'Artagnan

Jambalaya is a traditional rice dish from Louisiana containing a combination of smoked sausage (such as andouille), fresh sausage, and another protein, such a chicken or shrimp. The versions hailing from New Orleans sometimes contain a bit of tomato, while the other regions of Louisiana typically omit that ingredient. Tons of spices, and a base of onions, bell pepper, and celery make up the rest of this super flavorful dish.

The key, I've learned, to cooking New Orleans fare is to really build flavors by taking the time to cook each ingredient or layer of ingredients longer than you'd normally expect. Here you begin with the andouille and fresh sausage. I used fresh chicken sausage in place of the pork called for in the recipe. The two are browned together before adding the chicken. I replaced the chicken thighs with an equivalent amount of chicken tenders, because I had some in my freezer already.

Next comes chopped onion, which spends some quality time caramelizing together with the meats. Then the bell peppers, celery and garlic. Next is the rice (par-boiled/converted rice doesn't stick together) and spices such as thyme, cayenne, paprika, and bay leaf. Finally, deglaze the pan with the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock/broth and you're well on your way to a spectacular jambalaya.

Clockwise from top left: browning sausages, adding chicken, adding aromatics, adding rice and spices, adding tomatoes and broth, finished jambalaya

The dish is finished with chopped scallions, adding a bit more vibrancy to a relatively heavy dish. I lightened it up a bit myself by using a bit less oil, and swapping the pork sausage for chicken. The finished product is nicely spiced without being too spicy. The rice is so flavorful, and each bite is studded with a variety of meats and finely chopped aromatics.

I must say, my first foray into jambalaya-making was quite the success. I'm two-for-two so far cooking from Besh Big Easy, and I couldn't be more pleased! This jambalaya would be a great comfort dish in the dead of winter, between all the flavorful spices, and the various meats. It's stick-to-your-ribs delicious.

Chicken and Andouille Jambalaya
Makes 8 to 10 servings (I highly encourage you to halve this recipe to yield a more reasonable quantity for an average-sized family--that's what I did)
(From Besh Big Easy)

1 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, chopped
1 pound fresh pork sausage, removed from casings (I used fresh chicken sausage)
1/2 cup bacon fat or oil
8 skinless boneless chicken thighs, roughly cubed (I used an equivalent amount of chicken tenders)
Salt and pepper
2 large onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 stalk celery, with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups white rice
1 tablespoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock or broth
Big dash Tabasco
Big dash Worcestershire
4 green onions, chopped

Heat a very big, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. (This lets the pot heat uniformly, preventing hot spots that are likely to burn.) Brown the andouille and pork sausage in the bacon fat, stirring slowly with a long wooden spoon to build color. While the sausage is browning, season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pot (the dark meat is so flavorful!), stir, and cook until the chicken turns golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Once the chicken has browned, add the onions and let them caramelize for about 15 minutes to build more flavor. I add the bell peppers late, to save as much of the color as I can. Add the celery (I always use the leaves, too) and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that everything cooks evenly.

Next add the rice, pimenton, cayenne, thyme, bay leaf, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper to the pot and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the tomatoes, stock, Tabasco, and Worcestershire. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Fold in the green onions. Cover again, turn off the heat, and let the rice steam in the hot pot for another 10 minutes. Fluff the jambalaya with a fork and serve!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pumpkin Waffles with Sour Cream and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds


Just because Thanksgiving has passed doesn't mean that pumpkin season is over, at least not in my book. I recently had some canned pumpkin leftover from making pumpkin scones and was considering how to use it up. It wasn't a large quantity, which worked out perfectly because these particular pumpkin waffles from Sarabeth's only require 1/3 cup, which is exactly what I had on hand.

I proudly own both of Sarabeth's cookbooks, and her most recent release Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook in particular features tons of great breakfast recipes. She has taken the recipe for her famous pumpkin muffins and transformed it to make ethereal, seasonal waffles that put other pumpkin waffles to shame.

The recipe is a tad unusual in that it begins almost like scones by actually cutting the butter into the dry ingredients, whereas most waffles recipes will use melted butter or oil for easy mixing.

Sarabeth uses a combination of whole milk and cream, which undoubtedly yields a rich texture, but I had a ton of leftover buttermilk hanging out in my fridge, so I substituted buttermilk for both the milk and cream. The result is a tangy, tender pumpkin waffle with a hint of aromatic spices.

A dollop of sour cream atop the waffles adds a bit more tang, while a drizzle of pure maple syrup offers a hint of sweetness. Raisins and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) round out the garnishes by adding some great texture to the soft and fluffy pale orange waffles.

Honestly, if I had to pick between waffles and pancakes I would pick waffles hands down. I really love the little pockets that waffles have for holding syrup and other toppings. I also find they tend to just taste better in many cases even if the batters are quite similar in nature. Or maybe it's really just the pockets perfect for holding maple syrup within the delicate crust :)

Regardless, these waffles are out of this world. They are super impressive and would be perfect for a holiday brunch, and yet they are incredibly easy to prepare. I have a Belgian-style waffle maker (bigger pockets for syrup!) that yields small rectangular waffles. You can also make this recipe with a large round waffle maker. I yielded 10 small waffles with this recipe--about 2 per serving is a good number in my opinion. You'd yield a few number of larger waffles if making round ones.

Pumpkin Waffles with Sour Cream and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Makes 4 to 6 servings
(From Sarabeth's Good Morning Cookbook)

2 cups (284 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (65 grams) superfine sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/2 cup (112 grams) whole milk (I substituted buttermilk for both the milk and heavy cream)
1/2 cup (116 grams) heavy cream (I substituted buttermilk for both the milk and heavy cream)
1/3 cup (93 grams) unsweetened solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
Seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Clarified Butter or vegetable oil for the waffle iron
Warm pure maple syrup, for serving
Sour cream, at room temperature, for serving
Pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), toasted, for garnish
Raisins, for garnish

Heat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer's directions.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt to combine. Add the butter and pulse 15 to 20 times, until it is very finely chopped and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and make a well in the center. (Alternatively, whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Toss in the butter to coat with the flour mixture, then cut it in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center.)

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, cream, pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Pour into the well and fold with the whisk just until the batter is combined. Don't worry about lumps.

Lightly grease the waffle iron grids with clarified butter. Using a dry measuring cup or ice-cream scoop, place the correct amount of batter in the center of the iron's quadrants (see waffle iron manufacturer's directions). Close the lid and bake until the waffle is crisp and golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.

Transfer the waffle to a warmed serving plate and serve immediately, with the warm syrup, sour cream, pumpkin seeds, and raisins on the side. Make and serve the remaining waffles.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Japanese Curry Chicken Dumplings


Dumpling. One simple word holds so much meaning and incites vivid thoughts of gastronomic pleasure. If I had to pick a single favorite food in the universe (yes, the UNIVERSE--not just planet Earth), it would be dumplings. Not simply Asian dumplings, but really the entire span of dumplings from all global regions. Dough wrapped around delicious filling is a universally loved treasure, and I've cooked my share of dumplings from all cultures over the years.

Let's take a trip down memory lane. I suggest placing a napkin directly under your chin to catch excessive drool. I have posted TONS of recipes for dumplings on Mission: Food over the years. Making dumplings is one of my favorite pastimes, such a gratifying experience. I tend to make most of them completely from scratch (that includes the dough) and suggest all dumpling-lovers attempt to do so at least once. The results are incomparable.

A couple months ago, New York City hosted its first ever Dumpling Festival on National Dumpling Day. It was a swoon-worthy event, and I was lucky enough to be one of the bloggers tasked with writing about it. In honor of the occasion, I shared a post highlighting my Top 10 Favorite Dumplings that I have previously shared on my blog. I also have an ongoing post, which I update periodically, with Chinese and Chinese-inspired recipes perfect for Chinese New Year celebrations. I highly suggest checking out these links if you're interested in some of the dumpling and/or Chinese recipes I've previously shared.

Some International dumpling love--I was really excited to see Armenia represented on this map of dumplings from around the world!

Today, we're going to open a new chapter in dumpling-making by taking a look at a recently released cookbook authored by Kenny Lao, the founder and owner of New York City's former dumpling haven, Rickshaw Dumplings. Hey There, Dumpling! contains many of the famed dumplings created by head chef Anita Lo, along with several of Lao's family favorites. There are also chapters devoted to Buns & Noodles, Salads & Sides, Finger Foods & Snacks, Drinks, and Desserts, perfect to help round out any dumpling meal.

I could barely contain my excitement upon receiving this gorgeous cookbook from the publisher. They also sent me some Hey There, Dumpling! chopsticks. What a fun, creative and useful marketing tool to get the word out for this awesome dumpling book.

The book is an incredibly charming look at dumplings, complete with fun and playful illustrations on dumpling folds, and more. One of my favorite features in the book is a mix and match dumplings and dips chart that helps pair every single dumpling recipe in the book with a variety of dipping sauce options. It's like a dumpling dream!

Nearly all of Lao's dumpling recipes utilize store-bought wrappers, with the exception of the soup dumplings which absolutely must be made with homemade dough. I'm a homemade dough kind of girl, and take particular pride in my attention to detail when making dumplings from scratch, but I do appreciate the convenience factor of using store-bought wrappers, and considering the fact that many actual Asian people use this shortcut, I'm willing to make some concessions and be open-minded to the idea.

This 1 pound package of Twin Marquis dumplings wrappers contains 43 wrappers, and is Lao's preferred brand

Call me a snob, but I just love making things from scratch whenever I can! I can see how hosting a dumpling making party would be especially easy and less daunting by using store-bought wrappers, especially for newbies, so I say go for it. It really is remarkably faster, and a great way to get your feet wet in your dumpling-making adventures.

There are so many recipes in this book that stand out. I'm the proud owner of three other stellar cookbooks completely devoted to dumplings and dim sum (not to mention other Asian cookbooks containing dumpling recipes), but I'm proud to say that Hey There, Dumpling! easily holds its own next to the other books. It contains tips and information that are new to me even after immersing myself into dumpling making for years now.

Not only that, but there are several truly unique dumpling recipes within that make this book completely worthwhile even with an arsenal of dumpling cookbooks on my bookshelf. Fan favorites like Rickshaw Dumplings popular Chicken & Thai Basil Dumplings with Spicy Peanut Dip are included in the book, along with other standouts such as Japanese Curry Chicken Dumplings, Peking Duck Dumplings, Chicken Saag Dumplings, Herby Turkey Dumplings, and Hot & Sour Soup Dumplings, just to name a few.

Awesome bun recipes include Bulgogi Beef Sliders and Sloppy Zhou Chicken Curry Buns, a creative play on Sloppy Joes. Meanwhile the Peanut Sate Noodle Soup with Crispy Shallots is a mouthwatering ode to peanut sauce, and the Chocolate Soup Dumplings are an unequivocally decadent finale to the dumpling-noshing experience.

As usual, I struggled to select which recipe to try first. After much deliberation, I decided to make the Japanese Curry Chicken Dumplings. I love dumplings and I love Japanese curry, so the combination is right up my alley.

You begin by making a homemade Japanese curry sauce, which is quite simple and starts with a roux enhanced with curry powder and garam masala. Many recipes for Japanese curry tend to begin with store-bought Japanese curry cubes, so it's nice to see this sauce made from scratch. The recipe doesn't include any salt in the sauce, but I think a bit of salt can help bring out the flavor here, and would be welcome. A portion of the sauce is reserved for dipping, while the remainder is combined with ground pork and chicken, along with peas, onions, and ginger to create the filling.

Please keep in mind that both curry powder and garam masala are technically spice blends and can differ from brand to brand, and can even be made from scratch in your own kitchen. This can certainly cause variances in the curry sauce depending on the particular curry powder and garam masala you use.

Lao utilizes a slightly unique cooking method for pan-frying his dumplings. He adds some oil to a cold pan, then arranges the dumplings and adds some water before covering and heating over medium heat. This is a gentler approach to cooking the dumplings and doesn't have the same splattering effect you may get when pan-frying dumplings the traditional way.

The technique worked, but the amount of water he uses (3 tablespoons) was not nearly enough in my opinion to create enough steam to cook the dumplings all the way through. I added a bit more water partway through. To be honest, I would probably still use my tried-and-true cooking method in the future, but I did find this to be another successful approach, once I upped the amount of water by several more tablespoons.

The resulting dumplings are as good as I expected. I didn't use particularly fatty pork (just the standard ground pork I always use) or dark-meat ground chicken (just regular ground chicken), and the filling wasn't quite as juicy as some of the other dumplings I've made in the past, but it wasn't dry either. I think the curry flavor was fantastic, and especially in conjunction with the extra curry sauce for dipping, it's really a super flavorful dumpling. Add a bit of brightness from the peas, and these dumplings really do encompass the best of Japanese curry chicken in dumpling form.

If you love dumplings as much as I do, I encourage you to check out Hey There, Dumpling! If you love making dumplings, you can never have too many great dumpling cookbooks, and this one's high on my list. It would also make a great gift for dumpling-loving friends and family this holiday season. I personally look forward to exploring more of the creative dumpling recipes within. Happy cooking!

Japanese Curry Chicken Dumplings
Makes about 45 dumplings (I yielded 40)
(Adapted from Hey There, Dumpling!)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces (225 grams) fatty (80/20) ground pork
8 ounces (225 grams) ground dark-meat chicken
1/2 cup (68 grams) frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more if salting the curry sauce as well)
1 (1 pound/455 gram) package round dumpling wrappers (I use the Twin Marquis brand Lao recommends in the book--I find it at my local Asian market)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring continuously, until browned and the raw smell dissipates, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, garam masala, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper (you may also want to add a little salt here). Cook, stirring continuously, for 1 minute. Continue stirring while adding 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened. Transfer 1/2 cup to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Reserve the remaining sauce in a separate bowl for serving.

After the sauce in the bowl has cooled, add the pork, chicken, peas, onion, ginger, and salt. Use your hands to work all the ingredients together until well-mixed. It's best to use your hands because you can get everything incorporated into the meat without making the pieces of meat too small.

If you have time, cover and refrigerate the filling until nice and cold, up to 2 days. the filling will be easier to spoon into your wrappers when it's chilled.

Take out five wrappers and cover the rest with a damp dowel. Lay out the five wrappers like ducks in a row. Wet 1/2 inch of the rim of each wrapper. Scoop a fat teaspoon of filling into the center of each wrapper, shaping it elongated like a football to make it easier to fold. Fold the wrapper in half like a taco and pinch the edges at the top center. Continue folding the dumpling using your preferred folding method (simply press the edges together or pleat to create another shape--I used the "Buddah's Belly" fold from the book).

At this point, the dumplings can either be cooked immediately, covered and refrigerated for up to a couple hours, or frozen.

When you're ready to cook your dumplings, choose a large nonstick skillet with a lid. Coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Start arranging the dumplings in super-tight concentric circles. Add 3 tablespoons water to the pan (I suggest a bit more than this, especially if you are cooking a large batch at once), set over medium heat, and cover.

Let the dumplings cook, rotating the pan every once in a while to promote even cooking. When the bubbling sound switches to a crackle, lift the lid to peek and see if the pan is dry. This step takes about 7 minutes with fresh dumplings and about 10 minutes with frozen ones (mine took longer than this--I usually use another, more traditional method to pan-fry; you can find it here if you're interested). You may need to continue to cook the dumplings for a few more moments to ensure they are evenly browned once the water has evaporated.

Serve the dumplings with the reserved dipping sauce, reheating if necessary.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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